Having been working on a Pi remotely for over a month, and with one in front of me for five whole days (time flies when you're having fun!
), I'm of the firm opinion that it's perfectly fine for its intended use and when properly equipped with adequate peripherals
. If you tried to run a top-end multi-core CISC system with multiple GBs of RAM, multi-TB hard disks, a top-end GPU card, etc., using a 300 watt power supply, guess how well that system would boot up, much less handle a keyboard and mouse? You'd be lucky if you even got the Power On Self Test (POST) beeps to be audible. If people with boards post to a list on the wiki the power adapters that work and don't work by manufacturer, model number, specs as stated on the device, etc., those following behind in receiving their boards will know what works and what to avoid. It won't be too long before a reasonably-priced, sufficiently-capable choice of devices is identified.
If you don't happen to have a minimal keyboard and mouse lying around, you can easily get as many as you want from your local recycling center - businesses toss them by the millions every year as they upgrade and USB has been around long enough that several generations of machines have had them, by now. Heck, pick up as many as you can carry and test to see how many work! Even an old PS/2 keyboard or mouse can be made to work using a plug adapter that costs less than a plain cup of coffee these days.
If you're going to plug more than a minimal mouse and keyboard into the USB ports on the board, you're going to need a powered USB hub - period. The intended educational use really doesn't require more than a keyboard - running a GUI with a mouse is a bonus at the very least. For those kvetching about how slow web pages load, I would invite you to click on the Show Page Source option on a particularly slow-loading page and compare it to that paragon of spartan bit frugality, the Google home page (with the plain logo, not a special edition commemorative page). Comparing the performance of any
computer today trying to load and run all of the typical crapware sent in response to an HTTP request with any personal computer processing a typical web page of the 1990s (the rough equivalent of the Pi's CPU) is like comparing the Space Shuttle to the Wright Flyer. The Shuttle is a whole lot more expensive and complicated, but, it will get you going 17,000+ mph and back home (if operated within sensible limitations, not in sub-freezing weather or when icebergs are falling off the external fuel tank - there's a couple of lessons about patience that "grown-ups" need to relearn and pass along to kids) - the Wright Flyer, not so much.
There is a long laundry list of things that need to be worked on, much less finished, before the Pi will be ready for prime time, i.e., any given classroom dedicated to teaching kids computing technology principles. However, like the board itself, it's not going to happen unless a lot of volunteers pitch in and help do the laundry, a lot
more than it took to develop the hardware. The nice thing about software is that, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again, and it's much easier to divvy up software into many inter-operating pieces that people can work on more independently than is usually the case with closely-integrated hardware. There is also the strongly-hoped-for potential for students to participate in the work - what better way to learn intellectually-stimulating and economically-useful skills than to improve your own possession? I think the low cost of entry for the Pi is absolutely key to its widespread adoption, along with the fact that it's nearly state-of-the-art technology, and therefore ideal for getting people up-to-speed on modern, low-power, high-performance graphics systems. The GPU in the Pi is reportedly four times more powerful than that in the iPhone 4, which is an ~$800 (unlocked) device that's taking a lot of market share from long-established game system manufacturers. I still can't believe the Pi is less than $100, and being under $50 delivered is nothing short of miraculous.
That's why I'm focused on getting 3-D graphics software running that exploits the entire system to its full potential, initially through the Pi-finity! educational game software I'm developing. However, I think we can go way beyond that to making manipulation of 3-D objects on the Pi as ordinary and de rigueur as handling documents in window-based software is today. There is potential in the Pi for an actual paradigm shift in user abilities, and the current surge in interest in low-cost, high-resolution 3-D object printing is absolutely complementary to what the Pi is capable of in 3-D software. It's too soon for this year's Maker Faire in California, but, by next year's Faire, I hope to see a strong tie-in between the Pi and 3-D object design and production.
In the end, it will be all right. If it's not all right, it's not the end ...